- Agronomic: potatoes
- Fruits: apples
- Vegetables: sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, cucurbits, greens (leafy), onions, peppers, rutabagas, tomatoes, turnips
- Animal Products: dairy
- Education and Training: participatory research, workshop
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
- Sustainable Communities: partnerships, urban/rural integration
Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch (WHL) II seeks support for work which builds on the successes and community support established during the first two years of a thriving SARE-funded farm-to-school project in Madison, Wisconsin. We have been successful at creating a positive working relationship among farmers, schools, and the school food service. Purchases of local produce have been initiated and “Wisconsin Homegrown” meals are being served in three pilot schools. However, several obstacles place severe limits on the growth of this institutional market. First, utilization of fresh produce in school menus is now very small. Second, and most critically, there is now no processing capacity available to supply the food service with fresh produce in the ready-to-use form it requires. Third, local farmers are not now organized in sufficient numbers to efficiently use a processing facility or to provide the quantity of product needed by the school food service. WHL II is designed to overcome these constraints. First, WHL II will extend its successful menu development activities. Second, WHL II will partner with the Williamson Street Grocery Cooperative to provide farmers with access to processing equipment. Third, WHL II will partner with the Dane County Farmers’ Market in order to recruit and organize a wider range of farmers to supply the larger volume of product required by the school food service as it extends its “homegrown” offerings district-wide. By the end of the project, we expect to have created an organizational and technical infrastructure capable of supplying fresh, ready-to-use product to a school food service whose menus incorporate a steadily enlarging volume of local produce. In the final year of the project, we will produce outreach materials and organize seminars that will extend the Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch model to farmers and schools throughout the Midwest.
Project objectives from proposal:
Recent extensive media coverage of the prevalence and increasing rate of dietary-related illnesses in the U.S. population has focused attention not only on what our children eat, but also on the ways in which eating patterns are learned. Schools are understood to be key sites at which healthy patterns of consumption can be introduced and reinforced as a matter of public policy. Farm-to-school programs are increasingly seen not only as a positive response to this public health problem, but as offering a complementary opportunity to support local farm economies and contribute to agricultural sustainability. The conceptual appeal of such initiatives is apparent in the bipartisan support that various forms of “Farm to Cafeteria” legislation have received in both the House and the Senate.
Our current “Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch” (WHL) project is a SARE-funded initiative intended to develop a farm-to-school model for the Midwest. We have been working in the Madison, Wisconsin, public schools and have partnered with the school district’s food service and with a cooperative of sustainable vegetable farmers, Home Grown Wisconsin, Inc. In October, the project completed its first year of operation. We have been successful at creating a positive working relationship among farmers, schools, and the school food service. With local farmers, we have provided classroom opportunities for children in 22 elementary to taste and experience a wide diversity of local, seasonal vegetables and fruits. Purchases of local produce have been initiated and “Wisconsin Homegrown” meals are being served in three pilot schools. However, we have encountered several obstacles which place significant limits on the growth of this institutional market. First, the volume of fresh produce in school menus is now very small and children are accustomed to consuming only the three fresh vegetables that are now used in school meals. Second, and most critically, there is now no local processing facility that could allow local farmers to supply the food service with fresh produce in the ready-to-use form it requires. Third, local farmers are not now organized in sufficient numbers to efficiently use a processing facility or to provide the quantity of product needed by the school food service.
This proposal, “Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch II” (WHL II), seeks support for two additional years of project activity. In WHL II we propose to deploy what we believe are appropriate and effective responses to the structural challenges we have encountered in the first two years of our work. First, WHL II will maintain the in-school educational activities we have already successfully used to prepare children for the introduction of new foods into their school lunches. Second, with the school food service, WHL II will pursue a menu-based approach to increasing both the quantity and the diversity of fresh vegetables as components of school lunches. Third, WHL II will partner with the Williamson Street Grocery Cooperative to provide groups of sustainable farmers with access to processing equipment in the commercial kitchen facility the co-op is now building. Fourth, WHL II will partner with the Friends of the Dane County Farmers’ Market in order to recruit and organize a wider range of farmers to supply the larger volume of product required by the school food service as it extends its “homegrown” menu offerings. Finally, through outreach materials and a seminar series, WHL II will provide for systematic dissemination of information about the Homegrown Wisconsin Lunch model to farmers and school food services throughout Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest.
Accordingly, project activities will be undertaken in five areas, each associated with a particular target population. Short, intermediate, and long term outcomes anticipated for each set of activities are listed below:
Activity: Education (Target Population: elementary school children)
The Madison school food service will serve menus incorporating locally purchased fresh vegetables if the children will eat the food. The children will eat the food if they have been prepared for it. We regard systematic engagement of students with local farms and local farmers, as well as with local foods themselves, as an essential precursor to their willingness to consume what for many kids are unfamiliar items. Each of our pilot schools now has its own farmer who not only visits classrooms, but who also hosts field trips to his/her farm. Volunteers and staff provide in-class fruit and vegetable tastings and participate in school gardening and other classroom activities. WHL II will maintain its educational programming in-class and on-farm.
Short-Term Outcome: Elementary school students know the sources, characteristics, and taste of diverse varieties of locally grown, fresh produce.
Intermediate-Term Outcome: Elementary school students are receptive to new school lunch menu items consisting of or incorporating locally grown, fresh produce.
Long-Term Outcome: Elementary school students enjoy and consistently consume school lunch menu items incorporating locally grown, fresh produce and have the basis for a lifelong understanding and appreciation for sustainable farmers and farming.
Activity: Menu Development (Target Population: school food service staff)
The school food service now uses only small quantities of only three fresh produce items at the elementary school level (broccoli florets, “baby” carrots, and shredded lettuce). If the school food service is to be a significant market for local farmers, school lunch menus incorporating larger quantities and a greater diversity of locally grown produce need to be developed. WHL II will undertake such menu development with guidance from the Culinary Arts Department of the Madison Area Technical College and the Dietetics Program of the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Food Science.
Short-Term Outcome: School food service staff recognize opportunities and means of incorporating locally grown, fresh produce into school lunch menus.
Intermediate-Term Outcome: School food service staff continue to create new school lunch menus incorporating locally grown, fresh produce.
Long-Term Outcome: Addition of new school lunch menus incorporating locally grown, fresh produce is an institutionalized component of the school food service menu development process.
Activity: Processing (Target Population: Williamson St. Cooperative staff)
The school food service is willing to purchase and use locally grown, fresh produce, but it cannot and will not allocate labor time to washing/slicing/dicing vegetables and fruits. Locally purchased produce must arrive ready-to-use. The Williamson Street Grocery Cooperative is constructing a new commercial kitchen and will include equipment for processing fresh produce in its facility. The Co-op has agreed to allow farmers to use the processing equipment on favorable terms. WHL II will facilitate the development of appropriate arrangements for use of the Co-op’s facility.
Short-Term Outcome: Co-op staff identify the legal, regulatory, and technical requirements for use of the Co-op’s equipment by third parties (i.e., farmers).
Intermediate-Term Outcome: Co-op staff develop administrative and technical protocols that permit the use of the co-op’s processing facility by farmers.
Long-Term Outcome: Co-op staff develop effective working relationships with groups of farmers who regularly use the co-op’s facility to process locally grown, fresh produce for sale to local schools and other institutions.
Activity: Recruitment and Organizing (Target Population: sustainable farmers)
The school food service now uses quite small quantities of fresh produce in its meals. However, even modest increases in the utilization of locally grown fresh produce in school meals will surpass the capacity of our current project partner, Home Grown Wisconsin Cooperative, to meet the increased demand. WHL II will work with Home Grown Wisconsin and with the Friends of the Dane County Farmers’ Market to identify, recruit, and organize local sustainable fruit and vegetable farmers to grow and process for the anticipated increase in school food service demand. The University of Wisconsin’s Center for Cooperatives will provide guidance on selection of organizational forms (e.g., cooperative, limited liability corporation, etc.)
Short-Term Outcome: Local, sustainable fruit and vegetable farmers learn about the opportunities to organize themselves to produce for the Madison school food service market.
Intermediate-Term Outcome: Local, sustainable fruit and vegetable farmers organize themselves to produce for the Madison school food service market.
Long-Term Outcome: Established organizations of local, sustainable fruit and vegetable farmers are selling to a robust institutional market.
Activity: Outreach (Target Population: Midwest sustainable farmers, Midwest school food service staff)
Although farm-to school projects are proliferating nationally, the large majority of them are located in areas of the South and West where year-round production of fruits and vegetables is possible. The WHL project is one of the first farm-to-school projects to be established in the Upper Midwest. Our experience should be of considerable value to those of the region’s farmers, food/farm advocacy groups, and school food services that are interested in linking the land and the lunchroom. WHL II will produce outreach materials and organize seminars that will extend the Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch model to farmers and schools food service staff throughout the Midwest.
Short-Term Outcome: Farmers and school food service staff in the Upper Midwest learn of the opportunities and challenges encountered by the Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch project.
Intermediate-Term Outcome: Farmers and school food service staff initiate farm-to-school projects in their own Upper Midwest communities.
Long-Term Outcome: Farm-to-school programs are established as a common component of the food and farm landscape of the Upper Midwest.